Monday, January 14, 2013

Rashel Harris in Texas - 2013 Update

She's posting articles, selling supplies and sharing her knowledge on YouTube videos.

Rashel, Isabella and Andrew of The Promiseland Farm

Two years ago, I did a blog article about Rashel Harris in East Texas.  At that time, she had been making cheese for a relatively short time, but she was already getting AMAZING results:

(Note:  These are not stock pictures- they are all pictures Rashel took of her own cheeses with her Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi, which I am now saving up for!)

Cloth bound Cheddar, just unwrapped


Cottage cheese

Parmesan rubbed with olive oil

Ubirico, Drunken Cow Cheese, rubbed with wine in the cave

Summer cultured butter

Are you impressed yet?!!!  There's more...


Dill Gouda

Natural rind Gruyere, aged 5 months

String cheese made from cultured Mozzarella

A few years ago, Rashel and her husband, Andrew moved from Dallas to a very small town in order to pursue a healthier lifestyle.  Back then, Rashel had been inspired by one of our favorite cookbooks, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Now Rashel and Andrew have an adorable daughter, Isabella (2). 

Isabella, now a toddler, loves eating fresh salted Cheddar curds

Rashel has become a master home cheese maker and she is now making videos and selling supplies and equipment  (mostly from us, of course!).  She is dedicated to giving folks the opportunity to learn about making cheese for free.  You can support her in this by ordering from Amazon through her website.

Recently, Rashel contacted me about a wonderful series of blog articles she is now writing about cheese making at her website The Promiseland Farm.

We got caught up on her progress:

What kind of cheese are you making now?

Camembert, Muenster, cloth bound Cheddar, the long cultured version of Mozzarella, Ubirico (Drunken Cow Cheese), Tomme, Parmesan, Gouda, Colby, Monterey Jack, dill Gouda, Gruyere and Swiss (experimental stage) ... those are all the ones I currently have in the cave or freezer (as well as fresh Mozzarella curds, ready to stretch).

Valencay coated with ash

Colby just out of the press

Waxed Monterey Jack

Cheddar about to be coated with tallow and bandage wrapped

Frozen cultured Mozzarella curds ready to be thawed out and stretched

Stretching Mozzarella

Yogurt warming in the dehydrator

Kefir cheese draining through a coffee filter

How many cows are you milking?

We milk one cow, Faith, and keep all her milk. One of our other Jersey Momma's adopted Faiths' calf. Faith's part mini-Jersey and gives us just the right amount of milk.  We got just over 3 gallons a day when she was new in lactation. We've been milking 7 months and now we're getting almost 2 gallons. I collect two days of milk before making a four gallon pot of cheese. I use yesterday's milk and today's fresh milk and then start making cheese!

Separating the cream

How many other animals do you have right now?

Here's our farm stats for the moment:

COWS: We have a total of 8 cows. We keep Red Angus and Jersey breeds.

HONEYBEES: We have three Top Bar Bee Hives. (We're new beekeepers, this will be our second year.)

CHICKENS: We keep a flock of Silver Gray Dorking's, Buff Orpington's and Old English Game Chickens.

TURKEYS: We keep Narragansett turkeys. In the off season, after filling the freezer, we usually have one tom and several hens. Then in the spring we let all the Mommas raise there babies and in November we fill the freezer again.

GUARD DOGS: We have two, a Great Pyrenees and an Anatolian Shepherd. 

GARDEN GREENHOUSE: We use the raised bed system and cedar boards to keep all the dirt in place.  In January, I'll be starting my tomato seeds in the greenhouse.

Sanitizing her cheese mats

Where are you aging your cheeses?

I have two wine fridges converted to cheese caves. One of them is for natural rind cheeses and the other for bandaged wrapped, vacuumed wrapped, waxed cheeses. I keep a mini humidifier in the natural rind cave, as I've always had a hard time getting my humidity above 70% without a humidifier. I also have open water containers and wet towels in both caves.  

Rashel with her assistant

Left is for natural rinds, blooming rinds and washed rinds.  Right is for cloth bound, vacuum packed and cream waxed cheeses.

Andrew cut the pine shelves for the wine fridges.  Rashel wonders why the shelves are always narrower toward the back?

How often do you make cheese?

I make cheese one to two times a week, depending on how much milk we have. Since we keep a family cow and our milk  supply is seasonal, I try to make many hard cheese that will last us when our cow is dry (not milking).  My goal is to make enough cheese for us to eat all year long... I haven't met this goal yet, but probably about half of the cheese we eat is our cheese!  Maybe next year, I'll meet my goal of making all my own cheese... we eat a LOT of cheese around here.)

Rachel's cheese tracker

Andrew made these shelves for Rashel's supplies

Cutting hard cheese curds with a whisk

Rashel stirring hard cheese curds

Texture testing cheddar curds

pH tester

Rashel uses our beautiful press

How many cheeses do you have aging at any one time?

I keep around 25 to 40 cheeses in my cave. It depends on the season. Ask me in April and we'll probably have eaten through most of my stash of cheese and I'll be looking forward to new calves and fresh spring milk!

Brie draining

Brie aging

Are there any cheeses you are hoping to make in the future?

Yes!  I'd like to master Swiss cheese and provolone.  Any raw milk natural rind cheeses really interest me.  I'd like to find one that stays moist and creamy inside that I can use as a grated cheese.

Are you still making YouTube videos?

I try to make a video to go along with most of my blog posts.  Recently, I made a video on How to Make Raw Milk Brie/Camembert and Fizzy Kombucha. Right now, I'm working on two new posts, how to make yogurt and another on how to make Cheddar cheese.

(Rashel currently has 46 videos on YouTube about all aspects of farming, cooking and cheese making.  Here are a few of her videos:  Making Ice Cream from Raw Cream, PART 1: Milking Parlor Tour: Family Milk Cow (first of a 4 part series), Making Cultured Butter from Whole Milk and How to Make Camembert/Brie Cheese at Home (shown below).

Are you teaching classes?

I use my blog as a free resource.  Most everyone who asks me, how to do what I do, won't make the time for a class... so I'm putting everything I know and have mastered on the web.  I hope my blog inspires other's to make all things cultured, fermented and yummy.

What are the challenges involved in running a farm and raising a toddler at the same time?!

I have a fabulous husband, Andrew, who picks up the slack if I can't do something because of our 18 month old toddler, Isabella. Andrew and I work really well as a team and in the end get everything done.

I've found that cheesemaking is a very complementary task to raising a toddler. There's plenty of time to make cheese, but I've found it difficult to garden with a baby or toddler. It's challenging when the weather isn't just right or when you're working around naps, meals and all other farm and house tasks.

However, running a farm and raising a toddler gets easier all the time. It's a joy and privilege to live this life and we enjoy it every day.

Notice the baby monitor!

Isabella with 5 month old Gruyere


Gobae said...

Remember it's mostly the photographer NOT the camera that takes good pictures. Saving up for a Canon Rebel won't help your photography if you don't understand how to take good pictures. Conversely, if you know how to take a photo (lighting, framing, composition, etc), you can use a cheap cell-phone camera and get good results.

Jeri said...

Thanks for your comment. What's the best way to learn?

Gobae said...

There are so many ways to learn and many good resources out there.

Some of my personal favorites include the tutorials found at the "". Of particular note are those concerning focal points, filling the frame, and rule of thirds.

But, of course, the best teacher is practicing, as well as hooking up with other people nearby. I've found that is a pretty quick/easy way to locate other enthusiasts near you.

Jeri said...

Thanks for the info. I think it's probably a good idea for me to learn more about photography before buying an expensive camera...

Jeane M. said...

Wow feel like I toured my self into their cheese farm also. Love this feeling of being inspired to make my own cheese. Great infos here. :D Got my eye on your next posts.

Rashel said...

I'm not a professional photographer and never have read any books about photography or taken any classes. These pictures are what they are because of our Canon Rebel.

I took the same pictures with my iPhone 4S and then with our little regular snap and shoot Canon, they didn't not turn out as good. I tried it. The Canon Rebel takes amazing pictures! Worth the money and time to save penny's to get it! :) You don't have to know what you're doing to get great pictures :)

The only down side is the camera is bulky... and it isn't attached to my phone! ;-) Not as convenient! :)

Jeri said...

Hey, we're supposed to be talking about cheese!
Thanks for the info-your pics speak for themselves!

Iron Oak Farm said...

Wow! You guys are amazing! Such a beautiful assortment of cheeses! Thanks for sharing, you've inspired me to make more! :)

regina said...

Beautiful pictures and Rashel you are amazing! I've learned so much from your posts. Thank you for sharing.
Regina said...

We are honored to call you and Andrew friends! you have surpassed me and have me inspired to be more organized so I can make more cheese this spring when our cows come into milk. thanks for sharing your info, I'm passing your blog along to all my students. We just had a hard cheese class last Saturday and they all got a dose of The Promised Land.
Hugs to each.

Tasha said...

Great article! I enjoyed looking through their website as well. Now I'm dreaming of having my own cow, too!